Loftus Road, London
4 May, 17:30 GMT
Arsenal FC travel to Loftus Road to face QPR as the race for the Champions League qualification reaches its penultimate stage.
QPR have been relegated already following their goalless draw with Reading last weekend, so the home side have very little to play for other than pride. The players have come under criticism from all corners, more for their lack of effort than the eventual result itself. Harry Redknapp has been pessimistic about the club’s chances of bouncing back from this immediately. Tony Fernandes will be a disappointed man, as despite spending millions in the transfer marker and in astronomical wages, the club was unable to stay up. QPR is expected to face a mass exodus next season, but before that Harry Redknapp’s men should try and end the season with a bit of pride.
Arsenal on the other hand have a lot to play for. The Gunners are currently fourth in the league table following their 1-1 draw with Manchester United in their last match. They are two points ahead of Tottenham and one point behind Chelsea, although Arsenal have played one more match than both these teams. So Arsene Wenger’s men will have to win the remaining of the three matches and hope that their rivals drop points along the way.
The Gunners are undefeated in their last eight matches, but they have won only one of their last three – dropping points against Everton and Manchester United. But their away form has been impressive lately – Arsenal have won their last four away games in all competitions and have conceded just one goal during this period.
Team News & Tactics
The good news for QPR is that Bobby Zamora will return to the starting line-up, after missing out the match against Reading due to suspension. There is also a possibility of Townsend returning to the starting eleven as well, as he overcomes a hamstring injury. Chris Samba, QPR’s expensive winter recruit, along with Andrew Johnson and Wright-Phillips are the other injury concerns for Harry Redknapp at the moment.
The former Tottenham manager used a very narrow formation of 4-3-1-2 in the match against Reading and their lack of width in attack was one of the prime reasons why they failed to stretch the Reading defence substantially. Mbia was the most defensive of the three man midfield with Granero and Jenas playing in a box-to-box role.
But it is unlikely that Harry Redknapp will use the same formation or midfield against Arsenal as well. He is most likely to return to the 4-2-3-1 formation with Zamora upfront with Remy out wide and one of Hoilett or Townsend (if he is fit) down the left. That should provide the necessary width in the attack with Taarabt playing in the hole behind the striker. Jenas is expected to drop to the bench with Mbia and Granero playing in the double pivot in front of the defence.
Mbia will have a tough job at hand to stop the likes of Rosicky and Cazorla in that position, hence Granero’s defensive contribution will be vital in this match. Both their fullbacks are suspect defensively, hence Hoilett and Remy will have to track back to help them deal with the forwards runs of Sagna and Gibbs.
Probable Starting Lineup(4-2-3-1): Green (GK); Bosingwa, Onuoha, Hill, Traoré; Granero; Remy, Taarabt, Hoilett; Zamora
Arsenal do not have any new injury concerns at the moment. Diaby and Fabianski continue to be at the side-lines, while Giroud will be serving his suspension. This of course means that Podolski will be starting up front once again.
Arsene Wenger is expected to field an unchanged line-up that took the field against Manchester United in their last match. Jack Wilshere isn’t back to his best yet and will have to be content with another start from the bench, whereas Gibbs is once again expected to start ahead of Monreal at left-back. The pairing of Koscielny and Mertesacker has looked solid in recent times; both of them were largely successful in containing the threat of Robin van Persie and Rooney in the last match. The Gunners have conceded only four goals in their last eight matches – a proof of them functioning well as a defensive unit in recent times.
But their attacked have looked far from being clinical; Arsenal have scored only two goals in their last three games. The problem with playing both Rosicky and Cazorla is that the team lacks width at times, and also the fact that both of these players are effective centrally. Someone like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can provide that width, but it is unlikely that Wenger will drop either Rosicky or Cazorla.
The other concern that Wenger might have is the performance of Sagna in the last match – he looked shaky and gave away the penalty as well. Jenkinson certainly deserves more opportunity in the first team based on his performance in the first half of the season.
Probable Starting Lineup(4-2-3-1): Szczesny (GK); Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Arteta, Ramsey; Walcott, Rosicky, Cazorla; Podolski.
- QPR have won just once against Arsenal in their past six meetings.
- QPR have won just four games in the league this season, the lowest since Derby County in the 2007-08 season.
- Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League for the past 15 seasons.
- Arsenal’s last victory at Loftus Road was in January 2001 with a 6-0 win in the FA Cup.
Player To Watch Out For
Lukas Podolski (Arsenal)
He will have one more opportunity to start up front this season before Giroud returns to the starting line-up once again. So the next two matches are crucial for Podolski. He needs to grab this opportunity and show Wenger that he can be effective in a central role. His build-up play was effective against United as he dropped deep to collect the ball, but the most important thing for a center forward is he needs to score goals in that role. It is time for Podolski to step up and be counted – specially against the weak defence of QPR.
QPR 0 – 3 Arsenal
It is hard say which QPR will turn up in this match and how much desire or passion they will show in this game as they are already relegated. Arsenal have too much at stake in this game and should win this comfortably. Expect the Gunners to collect all the three points with a comprehensive performance.